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FR3.5 rivals get more F1 mileage at Magny-Cours test

by Peter Allen

Photo: GP2 Media Service

Bird and Bianchi take to the French circuit to undertake further testing for their F1 teams, before heading to Hungary to resume their FR3.5 title battle with Robin Frijns this weekend…

Sam Bird and Jules Bianchi will prepare for this weekend’s seventh round of the Formula Renault 3.5 season by taking part in the three-day Young Driver Test this week at Magny-Cours involving the Ferrari, Mercedes and Force India team.

Bird has been working with Mercedes since debuting with them at the Young Driver Test in 2010. He will definitely drive with the team on Tuesday and Wednesday, and depending on the team’s progress with car development, his seat could be taken on the final day by Brendon Hartley. A former Red Bull Junior, the New Zealander turned his back on single-seaters this year and made his first start at the Le Mans 24 Hours but has been doing simulator and demonstration work with Mercedes.

Bianchi, a Ferrari Driver Academy member and current Force India reserve, will drive for the Scuderia on Tuesday and Thursday and for the Silverstone-based midfielders on Wednesday. His seat will be taken in the Ferrari on the second day by Italian Davide Rigon, who twice won the Superleague Formula title but hasn’t raced since sustaining an injury in a crash at last year’s GP2 season opener. The 26-year-old has been working as a development driver at Maranello since the start of 2011.

Driving for Force India on Tuesday will be GP2 frontrunner Luiz Razia. The Brazilian has previous F1 mileage from his time with Virgin and Team Lotus, as they were known at the time. This year’s he’s won one GP2 feature race and three sprint races and led the standings before a double non-score at Monza last weekend left his title hopes hanging by a thread. Rodolfo Gonzalez will drive the car on Thursday, after turning out for Caterham at the Mugello test earlier this year and for the Tony Fernandes-led squad in the previous two Young Driver Tests in Abu Dhabi. Racing for Caterham in GP2 this year, he’s scored one top ten finish when he came home fifth in the second race in Monaco. The team has chosen not to run American GP3 race-winner Conor Daly, who has done two straight-line aero tests with the team this year.

Williams, Marussia and HRT conducted their Young Driver Tests at Silverstone following the British Grand Prix, while the remaining teams are set to run as usual in Abu Dhabi following the race at the Yas Marina circuit in November.